By Warren Rappleyea
After getting off to a 4-4 start, Red Bank Catholic (RBC) High School’s baseball team has picked up the pace by winning six straight games, including a 3-0 victory over Wall High School April 30 in the quarterfinals of the Monmouth County Tournament.
Austin Nappi went the distance on the mound to earn his fourth win, and shortstop Aaron Ahn whacked a two-run homer to lead the Caseys in a game that took just 80 minutes to complete.
RBC had previously downed Colts Neck High School, 8-6, in the opening round of the tournament April 29. Second baseman Aiden Supp pounded out three hits, including a two-run, fourth-inning double to put his team on top to stay. Ahn and catcher Brian Sheehy both had two-run homers in the game.
The Caseys got off to a 3-1 start and then struggled through three losses in four games. RBC then righted the ship with a 13-2 win against Long Branch High School before knocking off Delbarton School, Monmouth Regional High School and Ocean Township High School.
Supp swatted a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth against Delbarton in the Autism Awareness Challenge to key a come-from-behind triumph. Third baseman Anthony DeRosa hit a grand slam earlier in the game for the Caseys.
RBC also came back to edge Ocean Township, 5-4. JonMichael Rotondo’s long double brought home DeRosa, who scored from first base with the tying run. Left fielder Steve Turk then singled in Rotondo with the game-winning run.
“A lot of guys have been stepping up and getting it done for us,” RBC coach Buddy Hausmann said. “We’ve been hitting very well as a team, but lately, we’ve been playing much better defensively. That’s why we’re winning.”
The Caseys certainly can hit. Ahn, a Naval Academy commit, leads the team with an impressive .615 batting average and is tops in RBIs with 20 to go with a pair of home runs. DeRosa, a Rutgers University commit, is at .368 with two round-trippers and 15 RBIs. Supp is hitting .372 with 14 RBIs, while Sheehy has shown a penchant for coming through in the clutch to drive in 11 runs with a .250 average.
RBC has been playing without speedy center fielder Dom Caraballo, who is out with a back injury. Connor Caizza has adeptly stepped in providing stellar defense and is batting .517 with eight RBIs.
“Connor has stepped in and done a little bit of everything for us,” the coach said. “He got an opportunity in center and made the most of it. He’s having a great year.”
With a now steady defense behind it, the Caseys’ young pitching staff is more than holding its own. Nappi, a junior, has become the ace and is sporting a 1.58 ERA. Junior Blaise Panzini and sophomore Vin Bianchi have won two games apiece, and freshman John Nimeth is 1-1. Reliever Tommy Lang, a junior, has two saves to his credit.
“For the most part, our pitching has been pretty good,” Hausmann said. “If that continues, I think we’ll be all right.”
RBC was slated to host Middletown High School South May 3 and will be at Manasquan High School May 4 — both games are Shore Conference B North Division matchups. The Caseys are two games behind Manasquan with four divisional clashes remaining. The Monmouth County semifinals are set for May 6, when Hausmann’s team will play Ocean Township.